This book is written for concerned parents,
students and policy-makers who wish to understand some of the issues involved in early
child care from the point of view of what is best for infants, young children, their
mothers and families, in order to promote optimum emotional health and well-being.
In recent times universally available and
affordable non-parental child care, from an increasingly early age, has been advocated
as part of an agenda to redress the inequalities experienced by women, by enabling
them to participate in the paid workforce. However, non-maternal care in early
childhood, by unrelated women having no lasting commitment to the child, is without
successful precedent in the history of our species. A child can spend 12,500 hours in
day care by the age of five. This is more than the 12,000 hours that he or she would
spend at school during the next 12 years.
Concerns about the impact of this on infants
and young children were countered by assurances that there was no evidence of harm
from quality child care and in some cases it could be beneficial. In fact, there is
accumulating robust evidence to suggest that risks of a variety of serious and
probably lasting undesirable outcomes are associated with early group child care as it
exists in reality, even in "high quality" child care. The many infants who
are already disadvantaged in our society appear to be among those who are most at risk
of further disadvantage when deprived of mothering in early group child care.
Infants' actual experiences in real-life day care situations are often very different
from the ideal picture.
This book presents some of the relevant child
care research findings and their interpretation, in the light of the developmental
needs of infants and their parents, while considering "baby's point of view"
and the expressed wishes of many mothers. The evidence confirms that there are grounds
for serious concerns about the direction of policies which effectively pressure
mothers to separate from their babies and very young children by placing them in
childcare, and policies which subsidize them to do this rather than caring for their
infants and young children themselves.
The many contributions that home-caring
mothers or fathers make to society are currently undervalued. Society offers them
little in return, but they are penalized and handicapped on seeking to re-enter the
work-force. Some remedial measures are suggested. The book calls for community
recognition of infants and their parents as a discrete and vulnerable group, with
special needs during a limited period, and suggests an examination of the most
cost-effective ways of helping to meet the needs of parents in caring for their
infants and young children.
The precautionary principle - first and
foremost do no harm - should apply. There is good evidence to suggest that "there
are many professionals in infant mental health who believe that children's best
interests would be served by patterns of child care diametrically opposed to those
politicians promise, policy-makers aspire to provide and parents strive to find"